“I was fired…my family is hurting!”

Mike Lewis got fired! I wish this was a unique story, but I hear it all the time. Join me in prayer for Mike and similar brothers and sisters who have been hurt by churches. Here’s his story:

“I am writing to ask for prayer. I was told I would no longer be the youth leader as the church is going in a different direction. This is really painful. I have many emotions: sadness, anger, rejection, worry, fear, and doubt (not in God, but in churches). I have had a difficult ministry career and I am fairly certain this will be my last youth ministry job. I just can’t go through this heartache again.

I put the last 5 years of my life dedicated to a wonderful group of teens. No parents were consulted on this decision and there are many upset and angry parents/teens, and I fear for the direction the church has decided to go.

I am but one of many ministers who have been the casualty of poor decisions, firings, or forced out by elders. It has stung the church hard and many people are leaving. Yet, they don’t understand why people are upset. It is a bittersweet moment. I am upset about having to leave, but glad at the same time because the leadership decisions were often upsetting. While I see this as an opportunity to move on, it still hurts.

My family and I are searching for a church home and I have to start from square one in my career. My wife is really hurt. This is where she was raised. My kids will be hurt—this is where all their friends are. I feel like a dad whose family has been taken away from him.

I will continue listening to the podcast as I heal. It’s like having friends in the room as I struggle. You have been a shining light in my life as a youth minister. I look fondly on the times I have spent listening, laughing, and working through ministry.

I just wanted to know if you’d pray for me, my family, and the church families.”

Any words of wisdom and/or encouragement would be of great value to Mike. Any wounded healers out there who can help Mike? Leave a message HERE

  • http://vanrentalwarriors.blogspot.com/ Jason Chenoweth

    Mike, if you’d like to talk as you move through this, I’d love to listen and pray with you as an outside of the situation friend. I’ve done ym for a couple of decades, and have walked this road with several guys. Feel free to contact me, or have Doug contact me with your info if you want to talk. Praying with you and your family through this time.

  • http://adifferentworldview.blogspot.com Jon Greenhill

    Mike,
    If you find yourself struggling with a lot of bitterness and anger I would suggest reading A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards. It’s a tough but good book that helped me deal with some issues after a similar situation. Praying for you man.

    • http://www.gettingprocessed.org Jim Hill

      totally agree with the Tale of Three Kings recommendation! See rest of my comments below.

      • alisha

        I totally agree with the book recommendation.

        I recently went through the same thing. I could have just inserted my name in place of yours. It has been a very painful journey for me but worse for my family and students. But I have learned that God is more faithful than I could have imagined.

        I will be praying for you and your family.

  • http://suzier.blogspot.com/ Suzie

    Mike,

    My husband and I left a church (basically before they fired us) I could go into pages and pages of explaining what happened but I won’t. Long story short we now live 11 hours away from that church and all of our family members. After a year we took positions in a new church. (something I didn’t think I would EVER do again) But its a God story on how we got here we were not actively seeking the positions at all. But I am back in love with youth ministry. I don’t know if you will ever go back and I won’t blame you if you don’t . I want you to know there are still people out there who “get it” and are doing church “right” not perfect by any means! I hope you do talk with someone who has been in the ministry for a long time. Remember to listen to God He created you for a purpose and He will guide you to the calling he has for your life.

    I would really love to tell the whole story… maybe i’ll write a book on it some day :-) praying for your family!

  • Chris

    To Mike Lewis, I have been in your shoes before. You are in my prayers.

  • Nick Welch

    Been there, done that. It really sucks. Just a word of caution: don’t doubt God but don’t doubt the Church either. It’s so easy to take it out on the institution but just remember that it was people that did this to you. It was people that crucified Christ, flogged Paul, burned the martyrs & more. Allow this time to be a time of healing & fellowship within your family which is definitely not common when in full-time ministry. Love the Church, Christ died for the Church, so love her well. For richer or poorer, in sickness & in health, for better or worse… Hope that helps. I also highly recommend “A Tale of Three Kings”

  • http://thelokey.com Jeremy

    Mike, my wife and I went through TWO similar situations back-to-back. It hurts! The only thing that pulled us through was prayer and scripture. Be prepared to fight the bitterness you feel now and are going to feel for a long time. Don’t let it take hold!

    Praying for you and your family.

  • http://www.thatchurch.com Carmen

    Dear Mike,
    I volunteered in youth ministry for 11 years, working for the first 8 under a wonderful youth pastor who felt it was time for him and his family to move north back home to his family. After he left, the youth ministry was taken in a “different direction”, and it was obvious that if I did not leave, I was about to be asked to leave. We changed to another church in town and it was like going through what I would imagine a divorce would feel like. Even though I wasn’t on staff like you, I still feel your pain and am praying for you.

    However, after a very few months at the new church, the reason God moved me and my family became abundantly clear. Yes, I was still mad at God. I can admit it. Yes, it still hurts, even today. I can admit that. Yes, it changed me and the way I view ministry, forever. But, I’ve grown so much in the last 6 years in ways I would have never had the opportunity to grow at our old church. And in a strange way, now I am thankful.

    Listening to The Podcast helped me through, and I am so appreciative of Doug Fields and his team for sharing their hearts the way they do. I know they are praying for you, too.
    Carmen

  • Jen

    Praying for you!

  • http://www.myendofthedeal.com Brian Seidel

    Praying for you Mike, I hope you can feel God’s love through “the team” and community of youth workers as you heal.

  • http://www.gettingprocessed.org Jim Hill

    Dear Mike,
    I totally get where you are coming from. I was “laid off” 2 years ago. Have been in ministry for over 20 years (mostly in large churches). I totally agree with previous comments – don’t get bitter (angry is ok – God can handle it), remember that God wasn’t surprised by these circumstances. I have had some tremendous experiences in the last two years – still haven’t found ministry or employment but am trusting God for myself and my whole family. The greatest lesson I am still learning is that Christ loves us so much that he allows situations into our lives to draw us into complete dependance on him – TRUST.

    Trust Him, stand with your family and keep your dreams alive.

    Susie – I did write a book during this season. It’s called Getting Processed

    Jim Hill

  • http://about.me/jonathonwwilliams John

    Mike,

    This flat out sucks man and I’m very sorry to hear it. This is one of those times I really wish facebook had a dislike button.

    I started out in youth ministry as a volunteer youth pastor 01′ one month after my wife and I were married. A year and a half later, we moved 8 1/2 hours away to serve a church on staff with our new 2 month old son. The church there was very kind to us, the pastor was one of the best I’ve had the pleasure to serve with. A little over a year of serving there and my pastor, my friend, called me into the office and made me aware of the financial hit that the church was taking due to so many layoff’s in the area and local economy. They had made a 2 year commitment to us and he told me that he would take a cut in pay before he saw anything happen to my salary. I commend him for that. He did give me the freedom to look around for another opportunity, maybe even to pastor, if I felt ready. I did because I didn’t want to be a burden and help out any way I could, even if it meant leaving. We were a little homesick too, so that played into the picture.

    Not too of looking and we found a position 30 miles from our hometown. What we thought was a God-send turned out to be a nightmare. The pastor there was very legalistic and belligerent. Staff meetings were only opportunities to catch up on gossip. After 3 months of this, I resigned and on my way home stopped by to see my old manager at my job out of high school. He had a spot for me and I worked there for nearly 3 years.

    I spent a year and a half out of ministry completely, but could not escape the call to follow God’s plan for my life. I began to put my resume’ out there on youthspecialties and such and got a call from a church in our hometown, a UMC.

    I went on staff there and we had our fair share of bumps in the road. It all came to a head when I pressed our Staff-Parrish Relations Committee to act in regard to our pastor’s wife who constantly shared her sexual fantasies and “when I got drunk” stories in Sunday School class. These weren’t the typical shade of “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” Rather, these were the “hit me baby one more time” kind. I resigned and moved onto another UMC.

    This time a bigger church, better pay, etc. Things were moving pretty good, bought a new house in a new golf-course community, etc until 6 months in the job when our small groups director asked what she should do about the two lesbians who were leading a small group. She didn’t want to offend them, but she didn’t want to empower them for leadership either. Our pastor instructed her not to worry about it and let it be. The next 6 weeks were pretty tough for me and my wife as we prayed through how to respond to this. We called pastor’s, spoke with old, trusted friends, etc. After those 6 weeks, I cleared my office after work and slid my resignation under his door along with my keys and left.

    A few weeks went by and I was put in touch with a pastor at a church 8 hours away from the denomination I grew up in. Sadly, this was a 3 month and out situation. This was the first time I had a sr. pastor cuss me. I went before the board and they asked me what they could do to help, I asked them for expenses to move back home.

    4 weeks after we moved back home, I fell in love with a small UMC 12 miles from that house we bought (and still had) when we were at the “bigger, better pay” church. The next year was the best that I’ve spent in youth ministry to that point. We found friends there, one’s we still keep in contact with to this day. The group went from 18 students to over 60 in youth worship on Wednesday night. Kids were coming to Christ! Man, what God was doing with us was un-manufacturerable, it was truly awesome!

    On a Thursday morning after we had the best Wed night that we ever had the pastor invited me into his office. I truly thought I was getting a raise. I dressed up a little for the occasion and had our youngest son on my shoulder asleep. Instead of a raise, I was fired. I was given no reason and a crummy severance.

    This was the most difficult thing to happen in my life outside of growing up and not knowing who my father is. It was very hard with lots of tears. When your kids ask you, “Why can’t we go to church today daddy?” And you can’t answer why, wow, yea, this is sickening, sad, and just plain ridiculous.

    I went 7 months and could not find work anywhere. I sent out over 500 resume’s and interviewed at a dozen or so churches all over the country. My wife was able to find a job making very meager pay, just enough to allow us to float until we landed at another UMC 20 hours away; halfway across the country from the southeastern US to the southwestern US.

    After a year there, we decided that we were not missionaries and we truly missed our families. The church was a typical church in a small town. I was glad to know them and I was glad to move back closer to home. By God’s grace we were able to accomplish some things that the present youth ministry team is flourishing with.

    Presently, we are serving a non-denom that was born out of the Christian Church denom; closer to Church of Christ than Disciples. We love it here. The ladies in the church have reached out to my wife. There is definitely some healing that is taking place. I’m getting to do some things I really love to do with youth worship. There is an amazing group of students who have welcomed us as their youth pastor and family; God is very amazing. Check out some of my tweets at JonathonWW, I’ve posted a lot of pic’s of the craziness that we get to do for the Glory of God!

    Mike, I’ve taken a while to write this to you for one reason. What is it, 8 churches over 10 years? Are you kidding me? Man, I know the pain of loading a moving truck by yourself in a small town as your previous church members pass by and try not to look. I know what it’s like to have friends not respond to your phone calls or text messages. I know the pain of trying to manage a household with a lost income. We did end up foreclosing on our home. Never have I felt more of a failure than then. I know what it’s like to lie in the floor at night and call out to God until your face is so filled with blood that it’s hard to see. I felt pain and loss, I’ve been betrayed and abandoned, but brother, I am convinced of this: whether we live, we live to the Lord or whether we die, we die to the Lord because the God who has called us is mighty in power and mighty to save us from our present situation. Jesus told us that the road was not going to be easy, “foxes have holes and birds have nest, but I have no place to sleep,” He said. He also told us that He would never leave us nor forsake us.

    If you can quit being in ministry, then quit being in ministry and do it for the glory of God. But if you find an unrest in your soul and a sense of calling on your life, then dear friend, you better take heed of Him who’s called you.

    An old pastor said, “if you can find anything else to do with your life and be happy, then do it.” I think we’ve all heard that, but it’s true and I think it’s right.

    Whatever your next steps, we’re praying for you, your wife, your kids, the church, those elders, and that youth group. Please, please, please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you guys in any other way. Man, my heart is weeping for you guys right now.

    “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Soli Deo Gloria!
    John

  • http://nccog.us Tim Severson

    Hey Mike, I recently went through a similar incident with our senior pastor. Our youth group is made up of kids with parents that don’t go to church anywhere, we pick up and take our students home every week, very much an outreach ministry. Our pastor doesn’t seem to recognize this and started pressing for students to come to church on Sunday, after a few months when only a few out of thirty showed up he threatened to shut down the youth ministry. It took a lot of prayer but he ended up letting it go after a big blow up and a meeting with elders. I know God will be with you in this time and give you direction. My prayers are with you.
    Tim

  • Matthew

    I as well have been in a similar situation. I was told “i dont fit” and they can’t afford to continue with my position. So they got rid of my position and brought a college student in for couple hundred bucks a week. In a few short months they have reversed the progress we made in almost 3 years at the church.

    You and your family will be in my prayers. It is a tough and long road for healing to occur. I am not sure I am there yet myself.

    If you need an ear write me!

  • John L.

    The same thing happened to me a couple weeks ago. I know where you are. Situation sounds identical–different ministry though. I don’t know how I’d be making it if I didn’t have a few trusted friends scattered about the country to talk to and get advice from. They’ve given me a lot of wisdom. Feel free to contact me if you want to talk.

  • http://www.healingchoice.org Marcus Tanner

    Hi Doug (and Mike),

    I read this post this morning. My wife and I spent a number of years in full-time ministry, having experienced this horrible type of abuse, forced termination. We started a ministry, HealingChoice, to provide PastorCare to ministry families who have experienced forced termination. We know how traumatic it can be and the resulting crisis for the entire ministry family. If we can help, let us know, http://www.healingchoice.org or 1-888-540-8779.

    Blessings
    Marcus

  • http://www.scottruss.blogspot.com scott russ

    Mike Yackonelli once said that you are not a real youth pastor until you have been fired twice. At the point I heard him say that I was in my first job hoping he was wrong. Now i can say that I have met his quota. Here is a link to my story with the hopes that you understand you are not alone in this at all. Church work is messy and ugly at times. Be strong. http://scottruss.blogspot.com/2009/02/i-was-recently-asked-to-contribute-my.html

  • Andy

    I’m in similar circumstances myself right now. Praying for you.

  • Lee

    Some of these stories are truly sad.
    There is a to be certain an unflattering behind the scenes nakedness in the ministry of some churches.
    Some Christian Television Ministries have an equally shocking and ruthless facet as I am intimately aware of.
    The Lord has always been faithful to keep us in the palm of his hand.
    My prayer is for healing to the hurting hearts that have been so disappointed in the politics of some ministries.
    Lee

  • http://www.afterthepulpit.com After the Pulpit

    Sad to hear this oft-told story. Ministry is damn hard at times and only each of us can answer the question–”is it worth it?” My family and I have really struggled with that question and after 11 years in ordained ministry and a lifetime of preparation for it, I’m checking out to pursue a new calling. I hope you and your family land on your feet Mike, whether that be in or outside of the church. It’s great to hear all the support you have on this site.

  • http://www.cornerstonecofc.blogspot.com Mike Lewis

    Hey everyone!

    I wrote this letter to Doug. I am honored and blessed by the responses given. Thank you Doug for taking the time to post this and for everyone taking the time to read it.

    We’re doing better. Searching for a church is hard. But we’ll make it. We’ve visited a couple really great ones so far. I have already gotten a job working for LifeWay Christian Store here in my town which is a complete God thing…amazing timing. I’m moving forward and trusting God. I’ve got a great network of friends and fellow youth ministers whom I will still work with at camps and retreats in the future supporting me and encouraging me. I guess ministry is never completely gone from our systems…just how we’re connected.

    It is sad how this situation and similar ones like it plagues so many churches. If anything happens before Jesus’ return, I’d like to see it be this issue. The health of our ministers is more important than people realize.

    I’m willing to listen or talk if folks want to email me: bigmikelewis (at) gmail [dot] com.

  • http://www.studentministry.org Tim Schmoyer

    Oh man, I have so much to say to you, Mike. I should write a whole blog post about this instead of trying to cram it into a comment here, but I definitely feel for ya. I was fired 6 months ago and not a day goes by where my wife and I both don’t think about it and still feel the pain. I need to continually re-forgive people for the injustice and remind myself that God is using this in ways I probably don’t realize right now. Easier said than done, that’s for sure…

  • Pingback: 6 months after being fired from our church | Life In Student Ministry

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  • Bill

    I have been fired myself, however, just once in my career, and I understand how painful it is to be terminated.  Personally, I was devastated.  I have also quit three jobs; that is, turned in my resignation.  It’s a really interesting difference between the emotions I felt after getting fired and after quitting voluntarily. 

    When I quit, I expected my boss and my company to thank me for everything I had contributed to the while working there and wish me the best in my new job.  But when you think about it, what’s the difference? I rejected my company when I quit.  My company rejected me when I got fired.

    I imagine my company would have appreciated my response to being fired to be something along the lines of: “It’s been great working here with a great group of people.  I wish you guys the very best as you move forward in your careers.”

    Why is it that when the shoe is on one foot, we’re hurt, bitter, angry and disenchanted, but when the shoe is on the other foot, we expect to receive best wishes???

    There’s really only one difference: in one case we’re in control and in the other case, we’re not in control. 

    Looking back on the time I was fired, I now know that the company that fired me did me a huge favor.  If they had not fired me, I would  have probably wasted months of my life doing a job that was not best for me and I was not the best person for that job.

    Thank God for EVERYTHING.

    Bill

    • Anonymous

      Really fresh insight Bill! Honestly, I’ve never thought about that way before. Appreciate your thoughts!

  • http://www.facebook.com/benmcclary Ben McClary

    I know I’m REALLY late to this conversation, but I just came across this blog post today. I am a 19-year youth ministry veteran and I, too, have been fired from youth ministry. In the past five years this has happened not once, not twice, but THREE times! Serious red flags, here–I know. Of course, every situation is different and there were definitely things that I could have done better in those ministries and there were definitely things those churches could have done better. I probably don’t have any better wisdom to share, in general, than those who have already posted, but I would like to make myself available to any guys or gals who find themselves in this position and just need the listening ear of someone who has been there a time or two (or three).

    I did read the Tale of Three Kings book between firing #2 and #3. It was a good book.

    My main encouragement for those in this situation is that you don’t have to look to the Church to rescue you from the dark place you might find yourself in–look to the LORD of the Church. He has faithfully taken care of my family (wife & 4 kids) and I through each dark season we have had to walk through. I’m not back in ministry, yet, but I am starting to have those conversations, again, after another 18-month time of healing. It has felt like a LONG time to be out of ministry, but I know that if/when God decides to place me back in such a role, I will be SO much better prepared and with an even greater faith in the One who I am called to point people to.

    Hang in there!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Ben for your input. What are you doing now?

  • spoon

    Hello my name is Devin Spooner,from Arlington Wa. On Jan.15th,2013 I was terminated by the Boeing Co. I was out very ill ,under doctors care from Jan 2nd – Jan 15th .Eventhough i called in everyday,they said it was because they did not have a valid phone number for me. They can sure send a termination letter to me,but they couldn’t send one stating to come back to work or file a leave of absence claim if i needed to be out for medical reasons. OH NO!!! they would rather fire a employee that has work for them for sixteen years to save the old mighty dollar cause they are losing there butts on the 787 and 747-8 program.So if they can find any loophole to get rid off long standing emplyees the will jump at the chance.It is sad that they don’t care that there are hardly any jobs out there and there leaving my wife,that can’t work due her disability and i with an income and health insurance. I just applied for unemployment and welfare,pretty sad. I shouln’t have to be doing this that sadens me. I know alot of people at boeing that have done things way worse than not having a current phone number,that are still working there. So i can relate to you to some degree.We thanks for listening to me, God bless!!!!

    Devin Spooner

  • SPOON

    Oops!!!! Thats WITHOUT INCOME AND MEDICAL INSURANCE!!!